I think name-dropping is irritating. Unless, of course, I'm doing it. That doesn't irritate me at all. (Actually, maybe it does a little, come to think of it. Whatever. I'm still going to.)
On Tuesday I went with Rebecca to hear Rob Bell speak. I . . . don't actually know Rob Bell. But he was two years ahead of me at Wheaton, and he used to be in a college band called __ton bundle. College-Roommate-Jenne and I had a crush on everybody in the band. I was a little belated with mine--those guys kind of scared me freshman year, with their peroxide-blonde hair and their overalls. Sophomore year I got me a couple of artsy skateboarder friends and then I realised how cool they were.
At the end of that year, they did a concert over the road from my dorm. Jenne and I went and swooned. That might, however, just have been 'cause they were dancing on the stage. Dancing was not allowed at Wheaton at the time. I would just like to say that "Velvet Elvis" was the name of a song before it was the name of a book. I could probably sing it to you without having to refresh my memory. (I should also probably say, though, that I have yet to read the book.) Jenne and I both wanted a copy of their album "Taking My Donkey to Town," but we hated spending money on ourselves, so we each bought one and gave it to each other, which somehow seemed more justifiable.
The next year I wrote Rob and asked him how I could get a hold of more of their albums. He actually sent me a postcard back, saying he didn't know. I can still visualise his handwriting, but I didn't save the postcard, because I was a little freaked out he had written me at all. Apparently I have some trouble hanging onto the very evidence that would prove my right to drop names . . .
I didn't find out Rob was famous in Christian circles until my brief stint at seminary, when I was researching something and discovered an article of his in Leadership magazine. I thought it was pretty cool--not so much that I used to serve a now-famous person lasagna at the dining hall, but that the rather edgy college kid had become a rather edgy pastor.
I still think it's cool, but the talk I went to on Tuesday seemed a little like it was missing something. The edge, maybe. I felt as if everything he had said was true, but not the whole truth. I thought the missing bits were probably important--to the extent, maybe, that the Good News he was presenting was less Good because it seemed to take little account of our own sin. I think that grace would be less gracious if the only thing we had got wrong was our perception of God. Also, there were all these people in the audience going on and on about Rob Bell and how great he is, and all that. I'm no longer a college sophomore with a crush on him, and cult-of-personality makes me skittish. Or just kind of grumpy. Rebel that I think I am.
Cult-of-personality is something that can happen with Rob Bell, I guess. I mean, as far as I can tell, he's always been that kind of person. He's still an entertainer. On the other hand, I also think he's genuine. He did have some good things to say. He did have grace to offer, even though, as I say, I think it was missing something. I get the feeling that he is truly a pastor, in the sense of compassion and his desire for people to relate to God. I think he loves Him. I think he loves the Bible, too. I think he loves teaching. So yeah. I guess mostly I still think it's pretty cool that Rob Bell is getting up on stage and people are listening.